by Ginny Kerslake
Hello everyone and thank you. It is an honor and pleasure to stand before you today. And to follow Isaac. I was at West Chester Borough Council that night in July when he and his schoolmates spoke so passionately and intelligently, and persuaded Council to vote for a ban on plastics. It was an inspiring night. These children, this borough, coming together to make change.
I am involved in a different local movement, but one that is closely linked. When the Mariner East pipeline project roared into Southeastern Pennsylvania, residents started educating themselves and speaking up against this threat to the homes we work hard for, our quality of life, our families’ safety, our community’s safety. We aren’t pipeline activists, but rather ordinary residents defending what we love.
When land agents started knocking doors with easements five years ago, property owners were told Mariner East would be just like all the other pipelines we have been living with. We were told they had eminent domain, so even if we didn’t sign their easements they would put their pipelines on our land anyway and take us to court. We were told that construction would last 2 weeks tops and “you won’t hear us, you won’t see us, you won’t even notice we’re here.”
Well, there probably aren’t many people in Chester County who haven’t noticed Mariner East construction, now into its third year. In townships across Chester County and the state, private water sources have been destroyed, sometimes where there is no access to public water. Streams have been polluted. In West Whiteland Township, where I live, a neighborhood has been destroyed and the families in five homes forced to leave in silence in order to get fair compensation. And we now know that these pipelines are NOT like all the others.
The three Mariner East pipelines will transport over 700,000 barrels per day of ethane, butane and propane liquified under high pressure, making them much more dangerous that the other pipelines we are used to. When there is a leak these liquids convert back to their gaseous state and because they are heavier than air they stay close to the ground and spread like fog. They are odorless, colorless and highly explosive. To evacuate, one must run a half mile, upwind, on foot. We have no credible emergency plan to warn and protect the public. And here’s the thing: all of this is being done to ship ethane from fracking overseas to make plastics – something we need less of, not more.
The problem with plastics isn’t just sea turtles and garbage patches the size of Texas. The problem is also the fracking, pipelines, and cracker plants that are required to produce these plastics. Stopping anthropogenic climate change that threatens the whole world, and the pipeline infrastructure buildout that threatens Chester County and other parts of the US, isn’t just about switching to renewable energy. The solution is also moving away from petroleum-based plastics.
Here in Pennsylvania we can make a huge difference. Although we are a small share of the global population, we are a big contributor to greenhouse gases. We are ranked #2 in the country for natural gas extraction and #3 for coal.
While we stand here today fighting climate change, oil and gas lobbyists are working hard in Harrisburg and elsewhere to make our state a powerhouse for the world and this area a pipeline hub.
But we are the voters. We are the consumers. We can make mindful choices every day about what we buy, how we get from place to place, how we heat our homes…. But even more importantly, every six months we can go to the voting booth. Regardless of political party we need to ask all our candidates and elected officials what they will do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We need to demand our legislators reject policies that shackle us to fracking, pipelines and plastics production.
We can make every single eco-friendly change in our own lives but the climate crisis demands big bold changes, the kind we need the government WE elect to make.
To quote Margaret Wheatley, “There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.”
Defend what you care about. Defend what you love.